The evolution of young love is served up in Mature Young Adults playing at Toronto’s Videofag
Walking into Mature Young Adults is, itself, an experience. Videofag has been transformed into an urban forest straight off Portlandia: rough-hewn wooden picnic tables; a cobbled-together, grown-up-sized swing set; functional lamps strewn across the stage; fairy lights in the sky.
It’s exactly what you’d build if you were trying to create a wooden playground for grown-up children. The script is playing a similar game: young love, served up by adults.
But the hinky thing with nostalgia is that, artificial and saccharine as it may be, it still punches you square in the gut.
Or, in the case of Mature Young Adults, hugs you and hugs you and promises to never let go.
Renée Haché and Wesley J. Colford (who also wrote the script) play a young couple at various stages in their relationship, running straight through from their first meeting to their breakup to their older-and-wiser hug-and-a-handshake reconciliation. The script is cut through by external pressures–the suffocating comfort of smalltown Cape Breton, parental disapproval, the pressure of growing up–but the story remains firmly locked on our lovers.
Colford does fine work, including some excruciatingly (and delightfully) awkward moments, but Haché steals almost everything from him, delicately underplaying a role which could easily get away from a less talented actress. The script calls for her Caitlin to be both vulnerable and assured, upstanding and spineless, and she executes these contortions masterfully.
Director Alexander Offord also leaves a distinctive fingerprint. As he recognizes in his director’s notes, this show needs a light touch, a soft focus, an emphasis on gentle suggestion and easing-in, since the alternative would involve beating the audience over the head. (“LOVE THESE CHARACTERS! AREN’T THEY CUTE!”) He delivers exactly that–something far more challenging than many of us realize, but every bit as successful as it was in his earlier Hystericon.
Okay, okay, there are still one or two lines that hit the stage with a thud. But this is a one-hour tasting platter of a show, a remount of a Fringe production, and a sound basis for future work both on this show in particular and by this company.
Joe Pagnan’s amazing set, augmented considerably by the presence of Belluevue Park straight outside the storefront window, and lit entirely with practicals, stands out as a singular accomplishment for this level of theatre. It does create a few small technical problems, but these are down to trying to squeeze such an expansive landscape into such a tiny venue, and would be ameliorated by a remount in a larger space.
Finally, I’d like to show appreciation for Videofag‘s owners, Jordan Tannahill and William Ellis. How many theatre-owners would allow a renting company to cover the entire venue’s floor in four inches of wood chips, or completely remove the in-house lighting, or construct half a playground? Their willingness to embrace some wilder and more interesting ideas is allowing local creators to get away with things that would never fly at more conventional venues, and represents a considerable gift to our emergent artists and indie theatre scene.
- Mature Young Adults plays at Videofag (187 Augusta Ave., in Kensington Market) through Sunday the 24th of November, 2013.
- Tickets are $15 ($5 with student ID), and can be purchased online or from the venue box office prior to performances.
- Show plays at 8:00 PM on Friday the 22nd; 4:00 and 8:00 on Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th.
Photograph by Nicholas Porteous.